Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate Truffles
I rolled some of these in tempered Dove chocolate
What's better than creamy smooth dark chocolate?  Creamy smooth dark chocolate with some heavy cream and butter, that's what.  I don't know why these are perceived as so fancy.  They're probably one of the easiest things to make involving chocolate and they're heaven to eat.
Our friend Cheryl Tellers-now-Whitney first introduced me to this recipe.  She added Bailey's Irish Cream to hers, and you should feel free to do the same, but I like my chocolate flavor to be pure and non-alcoholic.  That's just me.  Soon after that I started topping cheesecake with chocolate truffle; just poured the liquid over a baked cheesecake in the pan.  People loved it.  Very rich.  I don't do that too much anymore because each flavor has enough richness on its own.  
This batch was made from the leftovers from my Easter cupcakes (Cocoa Whipped Cream Cupcakes), so I can't really tell you how many truffles this recipe will make for you.  If you try it, let me know.

Chocolate Truffles

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound good semisweet chocolate (I prefer Dove chocolate) finely chopped
  • cocoa powder (or some tempered dark chocolate)
In a heavy saucepan, bring cream to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Stir in butter until it melts.  Stir in chocolate until all is melted.  Refrigerate uncovered until firm, about 3 hours (maybe?).  If you're not going to form truffles in the next few hours, go ahead and cover the bowl once the chocolate is firm.   
Line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper. Scoop out about tablespoon size portions and place on the wax/parchment paper. When you've scooped all you can, check to see if the chocolate is still relatively cool and firm. Take one blob of chocolate at a time and roll it between the palms of your hands into a relatively spherical shape. (If you find that the chocolate is too squishy, refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes.)  Roll each ball in cocoa powder.
I keep mine in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to eat.  As you can see in the picture below, these are pretty soft.  If you'd like firmer truffles, adjust the cream to chocolate ratio a bit.

I use my small Pampered Chef cookie scoop for this job.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cocoa Whipped Cream Cupcakes

These cupcakes were for Easter, for my mother-in-law who gave up chocolate for Lent.  She was unable to enjoy the birthday cake version for her son, so being the awesome daughter-in-law that I am, I made these with her in mind.  I enjoyed a couple of them too.
I've been in love with this cocoa whipped cream since maybe high school, when I cut the recipe from the  box of Nestle cocoa powder.  I still have that piece of cardboard, and now I have the recipe here on the web.  There's just something magical about the deep cocoa flavor in a slightly sweet whipped cream.  It makes the chocolate cake taste lighter, and therefore less fattening.  The chocolate truffle (really ganache) is a recent addition to this pairing of chocolate cake and cocoa whipped cream, so now I think they will come as a trio.  One of the best ways I can think of to satisfy a chocolate craving.

Cocoa Whipped Cream Cupcakes

  • 1 box worth (24 cupcakes) of devil's food cupcakes baked according to package instructions-OR-make your own from scratch if that's what you're into.
  • Chocolate Truffle Topping (see below)
  • Cocoa Whipped Cream (see below)
Chocolate Truffle Topping
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound good semisweet chocolate (I prefer Dove chocolate) finely chopped
In a heavy saucepan, bring cream to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Stir in butter until it melts.  Stir in chocolate until all is melted.  Set aside to cool while you whip the cocoa whipped cream.  
* What you don't use for the cupcakes, pour into a clean bowl and refrigerate until firm.  Scoop out about a tablespoon and roll into a ball.  Roll in cocoa powder.

Cocoa Whipped Cream
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
In a small mixer bowl, mix cocoa and sugar.  Stir in hot water until a smooth paste forms.  Add cream.  Beat just until firm peaks form.  Do not over beat.
Makes about 2 cups
(From Nestle Cocoa box)

Assembly of the Cupcakes
When truffle topping is relatively cool, dip the top of each cupcake and let drip; then turn over and set aside.
Place cocoa whipped cream into a piping bag (a.k.a. large Ziploc bag with large star tip--if this is too much trouble, just cut one corner off and it just won't look as fancy).  Pipe whipped cream into stars around the edge of each cupcake.  Then spoon about one half to one teaspoon of truffle into the center.  Refrigerate about one hour before serving.
Enjoy the remaining cocoa whipped cream with coffee or just out of a spoon.  You will also have extra truffle topping that you should refrigerate and eat when no one is looking. 
Makes 24 cupcakes.

Cheesy Potatoes

You've probably seen these potatoes at various potlucks and holiday dinners.  Those were probably made with frozen hash brown potatoes, though, and THESE are made with the most fantastic potatoes I've ever come across: Klondike Goldust Potatoes.  These should only be eaten once, maybe twice a year.  Any more than that and you'll end up with a heart attack.  Be careful.

Cheesy Potatoes

  • 6 small to medium sized Klondike Goldust Potatoes (or other yellow potato)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 can (10.5 oz.) cream of chicken soup
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
Put potatoes in a pot, cover with water, and boil for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife inserted into one comes out easily.

Preheat oven to 375°.

While potatoes boil, prepare a 9 x 13 inch glass pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray.  In a large bowl, stir sour cream, cream of chicken soup, cheese, onions, salt, and pepper.   Set aside until potatoes are ready.

When potatoes are done, drain water from the pot.  Remove one potato at a time using a fork or tongs.  Carefully cut potatoes into ½-inch chunks.  Slide cut potatoes into bowl of cheesy creamy goodness and gently stir/fold with a rubber spatula.  Spread cheesy potatoes into pan. 

Bake at 375° for 30-45 minutes, or until browned on edges and bubbly.

Monday, April 18, 2011

No-Fuss Focaccia (Blitz Bread)

Focaccia with asiago cheese

This focaccia was made using a recipe I found on the King Arthur Flour website.  If you've never visited their website, you must go check out their recipe files.  They have tons of great recipes, and most of them have pictures with them.  This recipe is so easy to make, and it's so easy to modify it with your own creativity.  I've made it a few different ways.  Today, I've added about a teaspoon of dried chopped garlic from Gilroy, CA, the Garlic Capital of the World, and I've topped it with my free cheese (Asiago) from the SuperTarget deli counter (Buy 1.5 pounds of Archer Farms deli meat and get .5 pounds of any cheese FREE!).  Usually, I use the dried chopped garlic, along with about a tablespoon of Penzy's Spices' Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle (a strong goats' milk cheese with garlic and herbs), and then I top it with some Italian spice mix.  Great for sandwiches.  I'm hoping today's variation will also be good for sandwiches.  After it cools I will cut it and freeze it to have on hand for the next couple weeks' lunches.Since I pretty much follow the recipe as it is on the King Arthur Flour website, I'm just providing the link here.  Note that I don't have the "Pizza Dough Flavor" or the "Vermont Cheese Powder," but like I said before, you can dress this bread up however you like: KAF Blitz Bread: No-Fuss Focaccia.
Focaccia with asiago before going into the oven

Focaccia with asiago before slicing
Focaccia with Italian seasoning before baking

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Fresh popovers right out of the oven.

Moist, tender, and buttery interior; crisp, chewy exterior. Mmmm.

I think the first time I tried popovers was when I went to this fancy restaurant on the Huntington Beach Pier for the prom my freshman year of high school.  I think that was also my first real date.  The best thing about the evening that I can remember, though, is the popovers.  I think I actually came home and described them to my mother who told me what those puffy brown crisp cream-puff like bread thingies were.  Popovers.  Makes me laugh now, that my post-prom conversation with my mom was about the food.  Good times.  Yes, good times.

At any rate, my mom & I started making popovers in muffin pans, and then later we inherited Grandma's popover pan, which is what I use now to make these tasty treats.  The recipe is actually very simple, considering how wonderful these things are.  The key to huge, airy popovers really is the pan, but if you're just starting out, go ahead and use the muffin pan.  You'll still enjoy these.  
I like to eat mine piping hot while they're still crisp, and I put on lots and lots of butter.  So much butter that it drips down my hand.  My husband, on the other hand, likes to eat them at room temperature with Cool Whip.  I'll eat them like that too, but my first choice is hot with butter.  I make them for breakfast frequently, just to start my day on a happy note.
It's best to start with room temperature eggs and milk, and a hot oven.  Just so you know.

  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup milk (I use 1%), room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter (to grease pans)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Evenly divide the 3 tablespoons of butter among 12 cups in a muffin pan or small popover pan, or 6 cups of a large popover pan.  Place pan in hot oven until butter melts (1-2 minutes).  Remove from oven and use a pastry brush to brush butter up the sides of each cup.  Set aside.
2. In a blender, or a tall plastic cup (if you're using a hand blender), combine eggs, milk, sugar, and oil.  Then blend in flour and salt.  Blend until smooth and well combined, stopping to scrape sides of container if necessary.
3. Pour batter evenly into cups.  Each cup should be half to two-thirds full.
4.  Bake in a 400°F oven until well browned and firm to the touch, about 30-35 minutes.  Don't open the oven until this happens. (So make sure your oven light works.)
5. Serve hot with butter or room temperature with Cool Whip or sweetened whipped cream.
Makes 6-12 popovers

M&M's Mint Thrills

M&M's Mint Thrills

Okay, so my husband was laughing at me as I took these pics of these M&M's, but really, I had to post about them.  The are a little-known treasure hidden up on the top shelves in Target stores across the country.  Anyone who loves minty chocolate really has to try these gems.  Just look at them; they're even shiny, for crying out loud!  This is one of those items that has actually gotten that SNL Target cashier comment: "Oh my gosh!  I haven't seen these!  Where did you find them? I need to get some of those!"
The shells on these are not like your typical M&M.  No, they have a barely perceptible crunch to them, due to the metallic green coating. (Yeah, probably not good for me, but I don't care with these.)  The minty chocolate interior is soft and smooth, and very minty.  I shouldn't buy them as much as I do because I can't just eat a couple.  I eat a couple of handfuls.  So, go on out to your local Target to the chocolate aisle and look on the top shelf.  They're worth the trip AND the calories.  Trust me.

*Update.  Bad news.  I can't find these Mint Thrills anywhere now.  I went to the M&M's website, and it looks like they're still making them.  Amazon has a pack of 4 8.1oz bags for $29.99.  Yikes!  I'll have to research this further, and perhaps write a letter to our friends at M&M/Mars.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tempering Chocolate

Refrigerator Cookies dipped in tempered chocolate
English Toffee dipped in tempered chocolate and almonds
So, I discovered a couple of years ago the secret of tempering chocolate.  I've seen chefs on TV use the inside of their lip, a thermometer, and marble slabs to accomplish this seeming tricky feat of the chocolate world.  I read someplace about how to temper much more simply and without taking the chocolate's temperature with a thermometer or my lip.  I'm always pleasantly surprised when my tempered chocolate firms up to a shiny, resilient, snappy shell.  It makes me feel like I'm working some sort of magic.
The tools for tempering chocolate are few and simple:

1. TASTY Chocolate--I prefer Dove Dark or Milk Chocolate Promises.  They are worth taking the time to unwrap.  If you're thinking about using the Hershey's Bliss, they're okay, but they definitely don't match the flavor and texture of the Dove chocolate.  I'm just saying.
2. A heavy saucepan filled half full of water.
3. A metal or glass bowl that fits atop your saucepan so that it just barely clears the water in the pan.
4. A bowl of ice that will accommodate the chocolate bowl.
5. A rubber spatula.
The materials for tempering chocolate.
1. Heat the water over medium-low to medium heat.
2. Start with chunks or chips of chocolate in the metal/glass bowl.  Place bowl on top of the sauce pan. You can let it sit for a few minutes and let it melt some before you start stirring.  Once you start stirring and the chocolate is about 3/4 melted, remove from heat and continue stirring until the chocolate is completely smooth and melted, with no chunks (even small ones) remaining.  If this is going too slowly, you can place the bowl over the hot water again for a minute or two.
3. When the chocolate is all melted, put the metal/glass bowl on top of the ice in its bowl.  Scrape and stir with the rubber spatula until you see chocolate freezing to the bottom and sides of the bowl, and the chocolate you're stirring starts to thicken to the point of canned frosting.
4.  Return the chocolate to the top of the pan of hot water and continue to stir until the chocolate is completely melted and loosened up to a liquid, about the consistency of a melted ice cream.  This takes less than a minute.
5.  Your chocolate is ready to be dipped in, molded, or piped.  If you're in the middle of dipping and you notice the chocolate getting too thick, return to the top of the pan of hot water and stir until liquid again.

It might take some practice to get it exactly right, but even if you do it wrong the first time, it's a learning experience, and you'll be that much closer to getting it right.  

Chocolate Dipped Refrigerator Cookies

Dipped cookies waiting to set up.
Here's another crisp cookie recipe that I think comes from my Aunt Tee.  These have a simple, rich butter-brown sugar flavor that will satisfy a sweet tooth easily, but they taste even better when they're dipped in Dove Milk Chocolate (of course).  These are cookies you want to be sure not to UNDERbake, because they taste much better crispy than chewy.  They keep well, so the cookie snob in me does not have to throw them away for at least a week.  (If they make it that long.)  Since the dough is refrigerated anyway, you can bake up some of them one day and then keep the rest in the fridge until later.  I would probably try to use it within the week, though.  Any longer than that and I would freeze the dough.
I pretty much temper my chocolate these days if I'm going to dip anything in it.  It looks nicer, and it makes these cookies easier to store.  When you don't temper the chocolate, sometimes it doesn't really set up right and it's tacky to the touch.  Tempering gives the chocolate a better "shell" so the cookies won't stick to each other or other things.  See Tempering Chocolate page for instructions on tempering chocolate.
Oh, and these cookies won second place in the Midwest Living Cookies Refrigerator Cookie class in 2008.  Just so you know.

Chocolate Dipped Refrigerator Cookies


  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts (or other nut)
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips or chunks, melted & tempered
Mix butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla thoroughly.  Sift together flour, soda, and salt.  Stir into wet mixture.  Stir in nuts.  Form into a 2 ½-inch roll (or line an empty Fruit By The Foot box with plastic wrap and fill with dough).  

Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap.  Chill until firm. 
Heat oven to 400°F.  With a thin, sharp knife, cut thin slices 1/8-inch thick.  Place slices ½-inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove from baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack.
Once cookies are cool, dip one tip in the melted chocolate (preferably tempered) until half is covered in chocolate.  Shake excess chocolate from cookie and place on waxed paper to set.

Any simple box will do to shape your dough.

The thinner the slice, the more crisp the cookie.

These refrigerator cookies taste great even without the chocolate.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crisp Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies

"These are not the chocolate chip cookies you are looking for."
"Look how large I make my cookies!"
Sometimes I just like crisp chocolate chip cookies. This is a variation on my very favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (My Favorite CCC Recipe). It leaves out the water and makes crisp cookies similar to the Pepperidge Farms Chesapeake Cookies or Famous Amos Cookies. I almost bought a bag of Nestle Tollhouse Morsels to make these, but I just couldn't do it. I can taste the difference and I wanted to enjoy the cookies if I was going to take the time to bake and photograph them. So, I cut up the Dove Promises, and I am pleased with the results.
As far as the mini size goes, I like being able to just pop a little cookie into my mouth without having to commit to holding onto a larger cookie for a couple of minutes. I'm a lazy cookie snob, I guess. I got the idea to make tiny cookies a loooong time ago, from a woman who came to our house one time to buy a computer or something from my computer salesman dad. I don't remember the exact circumstances because I was in high school, but I remember that the woman was of Indian descent and she brought over these teeny tiny chocolate chip cookies that were about as big around as a dime. Each cookie only had about two chips. Seriously, two chocolate chips per cookie. I kind of felt bad for the woman thinking she didn't understand how to make American chocolate chip cookies. Then I tasted the cookies and realized what a genius this gentle Indian cookie-baking woman was. I then went through an ity bitty cookie phase, which I had forgotten about until this week. 
Since I don't have the patience any more to make cookies the size of a dime, I enlarged mine to about the size of a quarter. Still plenty small, and still plenty delicious. Give 'em a try.

Crisp Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies
     --adapted from Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur


  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup Crisco
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar 
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 2 ½ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 bag Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, unwrapped & cut into ¼-inch chunks
  • 1 ½ cups chopped lightly toasted pecans (optional)
1. Cream butter, Crisco, egg, & vanilla in a medium size bowl. (This will take a little while for the wet ingredients to emulsify.)
2. In a large bowl, stir together with a whisk the sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour.

3. Combine moist mixture with dry mixture just until it comes together (do not over mix).  Dough will be crumbly.  Add the chocolate chunks and pecans. Refrigerate dough two hours or over night.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Use a half-teaspoon measuring spoon to make tiny dough balls and place them three-quarters to one inch apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  
5. Bake 8-11 minutes, or until puffed and light brown around the edges.

Makes a lot of mini cookies.  I haven't counted.

See what I mean about crumbly dough?
My trusty IKEA half teaspoon forms the cookies.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chocolate Croissants

Mini Chocolate Croissants

Chocolate Croissants, mini style
Every time I make these chocolate croissants, I do it a little bit differently.  I think the recipe below makes relatively large croissants, but in the pictures I have here, I only put in one Dove Promise (cut the dough into 2"x4" strips for this) to make mini chocolate croissants.
I didn't like chocolate croissants until I made them for myself.  That may sound snobbish, but it's true.  I'd tasted the ones at Panera and was unimpressed, but that was probably because it was lunchtime and that croissant had been sitting there since 6:00 A.M.  Chocolate croissants (at least these ones) are at their best about one hour after pulling them from the oven.  They are good for up to four hours (in my opinion), and after that the texture deteriorates into something more rubbery than tender buttery flakey, if that makes sense.  Don't get me wrong, they're still completely edible, but if I'm going to spend calories on something as rich as this, I want them to be at the peak of perfection.

Don't expect any sort of perfection the first time you try making croissant dough, by the way.  It takes a lot of practice, and several pounds of butter before they turn out well.  A few tips I've figured out are:
1. Make sure your kitchen isn't too warm.  Wintertime is fine if your house is about 70 degrees, but in the summertime, the heat and humidity will mess with the dough.  I suggest keeping your house cold.
2.  Go the extra mile and use unsalted butter for this recipe.  It makes a difference.
3.  The dough isn't as delicate as you'd think.  Don't be afraid of it.
4.  Make sure the butter you fold into the dough isn't too soft and that your dough is cold.  It keeps the butter from breaking through.
5.  A couple of handy tools are a quilting ruler (not sure of the official name, but it's big and plastic) and a pizza cutter.
That's all I can think of.  Let me know if you try this.

Chocolate Croissants (Pain Au Chocolat)

  • 3 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 T instant yeast
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk, cold
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, cool
  • 1 T unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T water
  • 48 bite-size pieces of good quality eating chocolate (like Dove Dark Chocolate Promises)

1.  Whisk 3 cups flour together with the yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  Place the milk in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Add the flour mixture and kneed at low speed until a ball of dough forms.  Cut the 2 T butter into small pieces and add to the dough.  Continue to knead until the butter becomes fully incorporated and the dough becomes smooth, begins to form a ball, and clears the sides of the bowl.  If dough is too sticky, add 1-3 more tablespoons of flour, one tablespoon at a time.  Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.

2. Place the 2 ½ sticks of butter and 1 T flour into the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat until butter is uniformly smooth and creamy. 

3. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface.  Roll dough into 10 x 14-inch rectangle.  Spread butter evenly over the bottom 2/3 of the rectangle.  Fold unbuttered third onto the middle third.  Then fold that onto the bottom third.  Seal edges with side of your hand.

4.  Using a rolling pin, gently whack the dough, starting at the center of the dough and go outward.  Then gently roll the dough into about a 7 x 12-inch rectangle, and fold into thirds again.  Make sure that the butter doesn’t break through.  IF it does, sprinkle with flour.  Fold one more time to make a chunky square.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes.

5.  Remove dough from refrigerator, gently whack and roll into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle.  As in step four, fold dough into thirds and then fold one last time so you have a square again.  Wrap and refrigerate again overnight.

6. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place chilled dough on a floured surface and gently roll dough into a 20-inch square.  Trim the edges so the edges are straight.  Using a pizza cutter and ruler, cut the dough into three equal rectangles.  Cut each rectangle into fourths.

7.  Place four chocolate pieces in a row down the center of each small rectangle.  Fold one side over the chocolate.  Moisten the other edge with a little water, then fold over the chocolate.    Transfer the croissants to the prepared baking sheets, seam side down. Cover the croissants loosely with plastic wrap.  Let them rise at room temperature until puffy, about 45-60 minutes.  (They will not double in size)

8.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Beat the egg, 1 T sugar, and 1 T water.  When croissants are done rising, place one baking sheet in the refrigerator while you bake the first one.  Brush the croissants with the egg wash.  Bake until croissants are golden brown, 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through baking.  Cool the croissants on a wire rack at least 30 minutes.
Makes 12 chocolate croissants.

In the process of forming the chocolate croissants.  One Dove Promise is plenty.

These were just formed and set to rise.  
They really don't get much puffier than this before baking them.
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